Since June, more than 500 new coral colonies have been planted in Maya Bay, on Phi Phi Leh island in the Andaman Sea. "The young corals are growing at an unbelievably fast pace. We will soon see the return of this paradise," said Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a prominent marine ecologist overseeing the effort.
Maya Bay — popularized by "The Beach," a Hollywood movie released in 2000 — was closed for the first time in June after it was discovered that most corals in the area had been damaged by boat anchors.
The front of Maya Bay, where damaged corals are rehabilitating and new corals are being planted, has been closed to boats permanently, according to the National Park Department. Tourists can access the bay from the back entrance when it reopens on October 1. The four-month temporary closure will continue each year to prevent further damage to the environment.
Thailand’s overall coral damage has reached "a critical level, with an alarming increase to 78 per cent from 30 per cent a decade ago", Thon said. The country aims to balance the booming tourism industry and the protection of ecosystems. Thailand welcomed about 35 million international visitors last year, a five-fold increase in little more than two decades. At Maya Bay alone, there were some 4,000 tourists each day. After the reopening, the government has set a limit of only 2,000 tourists a day who will be allowed to visit the beach, with each visit limited to one hour.
fm/ sbc (dpa, rtre, ap)